Physical Sunday A Sign Of Things To Come

Showing an enthusiasm and zest that has been missing since the week of the Georgia game, the Auburn Tigers went toe-to-toe on offense and defense for almost the entire two-hour practice on Sunday afternoon.

Auburn, Ala.--Noting this was the kind of practice he likes to see, Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville had nothing but positives to say about the effort and intensity of Sunday's workout.

Complete with inside drills, one-on-one work, and even goal line situations, the practice was a success in terms of getting the players' attention for the coming week. With just five days left before the team leaves for Christmas break, this type of practice they had o Sunday was something the players can expect until they resume workouts on Dec. 27th in Atlanta.

"This is kind of what we have been shooting for all year," Tuberville said about the physical nature of Sunday's practice. "With our numbers down the way they were after mid-season, we weren't able to be physical in practice because we wanted to be able to line up on Saturdays. Now we're able to do it. Of course, we're doing it with the younger guys. Some of the older guys aren't having to go through it--some of the seniors. We're going to treat this like spring practice for these six or seven days we're practicing…I thought we had lost a little edge of toughness during the season. No fault of anybody, we just had too many injuries and couldn't do it in practice."

Using the goal line situations at the end of Sunday's practice as a mock scrimmage, the Auburn coaching staff had to be pleased with what it saw. The offensive coaches that is. Starting the plays at the 10-yard line, the offense scored on two of the three plays they ran as Ronnie Brown took a handoff on the first one and raced around right end for a score.

On the second play, defensive tackle Dante Booker powered through a block at the line of scrimmage to sack quarterback Daniel Cobb for a loss.

On the third play, tailback Chris Butler took a toss and ran behind the blocking of Nate French to the two-yard line before running through a Stanford Simmons' tackle attempt for the touchdown. If the coaches wanted a full contact, scrimmage-type atmosphere that's what they got on Sunday as both sides were yelling for their teammates to make plays. Just like most of the day, it was the offense that had the last say in things.

Early on the quarterbacks and receivers looked to pick up the slack caused by the absence of suspended wide receiver Deandre Green. The two players that seemed to have made the step forward are freshman Joe Walkins and sophomore Jeris McIntyre. In the one-on-one drills, Walkins was able to beat former high school teammate Junior Rosegreen deep on two successive plays after causing him to bite on double-move routes. In the team period with the first team offense against the first team defense, McIntyre teamed with Jason Campbell for several big plays when the Tigers were working on blitz protection and routes. Also having a big day were tight ends Lorenzo Diamond and Robert Johnson.

Defensively, Booker continues to improve by leaps and bounds every practice. Sunday he was continually making plays behind the line of scrimmage and that caught the eye of his defensive coaches. Also showing signs of moving forward is redshirt freshman Wayne Dickens. The Lakeland, Fla., native had a good day rushing the passer and continues to solidify his technique.

Booker works on his tackling technique with the help of Taylor Bourgeois (63) while coaches Don Dunn and Terry Price look on at practice on Sunday.

Perhaps the best news of the day was delivered by the head man himself during post-practice. With so many negative things happening in sports today, stories concerning positives in team sports are becoming less-and-less common these days. This, however, gave Tuberville reason to smile.

"We got great news today," he said. "Everybody is clear, eligibility-wise, to go to a bowl. That doesn't happen very often in any school. That's a credit to our academic support people, Virgil Starks, Troy Smith, and our counselors. They do a super job. We're really proud of all the players and their efforts in the classroom."

Tiger Ticket Extra: On the injury front the Tigers are missing two linebackers as starter Mark Brown and reserve Mayo Sowell are both banged up a little. Brown sprained an ankle and will be re-evaluated when the team re-convenes in Atlanta on December 26. Sowell bruised a shoulder during Sunday's practice as did defensive tackle Dexter Murphy, but both should easily be back for the game against North Carolina.

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